Dear America, Why Can’t You Lead Anymore?

By Alex Gonzalez

Conservatives like to point out that nowadays the nation is in a moral and economic decline. Ultra conservatives like Pat Buchanan argue that our religious compass has lost its fervor and  majority  and  because of those old memories,  our best days are behind due to a demographic shift.   At the same time, liberals like to continue spreading the alleged victimization of the poor by greedy corporations, and that the victimization of blacks and other minorities can only be alleviated through more government programs.   As a result, according to David Brooks, America has lost its zeal to lead and has taken a step back into a “followers” position where cynical masses and the detached elites and politicians no longer reflect the values of Jefferson and Lincoln.

According to David Brooks, Lincoln and Jefferson are presented as the embodiments of a just authority, the leaders of the nation. Both leaders used their power in the service of higher ideas.  In essence, big ideas are supposed to embody American Exceptionalism.  However, our current President does not possess such leadership skill to exert his powers and lead.  Currently, the lack of real leadership in Obama, and political leaders, has caused America to no longer be able to think big, and instead, it resorts to isolations rhetoric and internal moral decline that perhaps jeopardizes our free trades and security agreements with others nations. As a result, our depressing internal moral and political decline is the real source of global setback.  We are so weak that now we aspire to be like other countries and not THE super power.

American exceptionalism is the notion that the United States occupies a unique position in the world.   Obama wishes to turn the United States into a European-style welfare state where the government is the perpetual ruler and sole provider of unfunded mandates, even if there is no money available for such services.  But if most Americans believe in limited government and self reliance as part of Exceptionalism, why does Obama presume that he can buy votes with federal programs?  The answer is that with the loss of leadership, our political leaders have lost credibility with the masses, so politicians gives government programs; and in turn, the masses blame the elites for our economic woes, and to remedy this, Obama and the Democrats think that they can buy votes by blaming the elites and the business-class.  But according to Brooks:

The main problem is our inability to think properly about how power should be used to bind and build. Legitimate power is built on a series of paradoxes: that leaders have to wield power while knowing they are corrupted by it; that great leaders are superior to their followers while also being of them; that the higher they rise, the more they feel like instruments in larger designs….These days many Americans seem incapable of thinking about these paradoxes…The old adversary culture of the intellectuals has turned into a mass adversarial cynicism. The common assumption is that elites are always hiding something. Public servants are in it for themselves. Those people at the top are nowhere near as smart or as wonderful as pure and all-knowing Me.

Thus, the failure of our confidence as a nation is  directly linked to the loss of faith of authority, economic or moral, created by the failure of the political leaders who have failed to lead the masses and have opted instead to simply to buy votes  through federal programs—Food stamps, unemployment benefits, and entitlement benefits such  Medicare and Social Security .  Thus, while the masses keep demanding the all mighty all-knowing Me, Me, Me,   Obama keeps spending more since he does not have a moral leadership to exert  his authority; or political direction to say no to the interest groups like unions, or AARPiers  who demand benefits while the national debt swells to about $1.5  trillion each year.   Also, according to some, we have also lost our moral identity caused of the shift in demographics.

The argument made by those, like Pat Buchanan, is that we are declining because ‘’we cannot control our borders anymore” and because the “ethnic” composition of the nations will not be majority white, or as he says people from Europe, and that Christianity is in retreat.  Buchanan repeatedly argues nowadays that part of our moral decline in America is because “this is not the America of   Eisenhower  and Kennedy.”  Buchanan assumes that the problem was no feud between Democrats and Republican;  there was a social and religious cohesion because both Republican and Democrat factions were white, according to Buchanan.  But when reminded by John Stossel, that that even under  Eisenhower, the US lived in a segregated  society and women could not get credit cards by themselves,  Buchanan  said, then the source of our decline must be that Christianity is under attack by minorities who lack Christian values. He points out that that “90% of us” were from Europe, one ethnic core, 95% of us were Christians. Now the white ethnic population of the us is only 63% and that by 2045, we will be minority-majority nation with no core values.

Listening to Buchanan’s  gloom-and-doom argument about our moral decline because American won’t be white enough does make me anxious,  but only if you believe his outlandish argument.   However,  all these argument by Buchanan are made up arguments.  For ore thing, according to foremost Political  Scientist  Robert Putnam, who wrote American Grace: what Unite Us and What Divide Us (the best political science of books of 2011 , Hispanics are now the sole bearers of the Catholic Church, and Hispanics are more religious than non-Hispanic whites, and thus, making American Catholicism  more traditional than other “ethnic white” Catholics in the north east and German Catholics in Midwest.  Consequently, unlike what gloom-and-doom curmudgeons like Buchanan argue, by 2050 America when there will be 100 million of Hispanic living in the southwest, American will still be 75% Christian nation (plus all blacks that also call themselves Christian.  Also, since Hispanic/Latin  Culture and religion is in its core European, Latinos will help America keep European/Christian identity, as Michael Barone has repeatedly argues.   Therefore,  Latinos are turning the US in the direction closer to meaning actual Christianity.  Thus, whatever presumptions  Buchanan has about Latinos being responsible for the dilution of Christianity are based on pure prejudice and lack serious statistical analysis.  Moreover, Latinos and other minority groups should not be blamed for our moral decay.

In his new book titled:  Coming Apart: The State of White America1960-2010, American Enterprise Institute  Researcher  Charles Murray, argues the real cause of the collapse of  the “white middle-class”  is  the fact that Americans have formed a new lower class and a new upper class that have no precedent in our history.  But, if  not Latinos,  or other minority are responsible for our social and economic problems,  who do we then blame for our moral decline?

The other argument is that the young are draining the system.  But that too is false. At the federal level, seven dollars go to programs supporting elderly consumption for every dollar invested in people under 18.   Nationally (after taking account of the fact that most education is paid for at the state and local level), the ratio is still 2  ½  to one, and that’s just today’s elderly tilt.  We have trillions in unfunded liabilities in these programs coming due as more and more boomers retire.   Want more?   For years, states have let public pension managers assume their investments would grow 7.5 or 8 percent a year, when 3 to 6 percent has been more realistic. This bipartisan ploy hides trillions more in pension shortfalls, funds that will have to be forked over one day by (you guessed it) younger Americans.

Evidently, curmudgeons like Pat Buchanan have serious problems with the demographic changes in the nation.  They either blame the young or minorities to reinforce their own faulty arguments despite evidence showing the contrary.  But David Brooks correctly argues that we have lost our ability to lead because of Obama’s failure of moral authority.  There is a vacuum of leadership in the nation and the super all-knowing Me, have turned the  “intellectuals discourse  into a mass adversarial cynicism.”  And for this one can blame the President.

We have a President who cannot lead because he lacks  the support of the masses and respect of business and  elites.  Obama could have used his executive position to lead, but keeps insisting that the only way out is by more purchased morality, government programs as opposed to personal accountability.  He does this because he lacks authority to lead the masses and courage to tell them the truth, which is that we are no longer able to sustain the credit of high spending.  Probably because none of his policies has led to embody the American Exceptionalism like Jefferson and Lincoln  did.

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